The consensus document laying out the framework for tax reform agreed upon by the White House and top tax writers in the House and Senate is slated to be released Wednesday, but a number of the plan’s details remain unresolved.
House Republican leadership unveiled their goals for tax reform in 2016 with their “A Better Way,” which received its fair share of criticism for its lack of specificity. GOP aides said the blueprint is expected to be released Wednesday afternoon and will include more detail — including numbers showing a reduction in the corporate tax rate — but leaves room for the committees of jurisdiction to work out the fine points on a number of provisions, warning “not to expect everything that will be in the bill.”
Ways and Means Republicans held their third retreat this year to discuss individual, business and international tax policy, just ahead of Wednesday’s retreat with the entire House Republican conference.
“You know what, they’re really adamant in our retreat to not set anything, no, ‘This is what it’s going to be, this is what this is going to be, this is what this is what is going to be,” Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly told reporters Tuesday. “There was talk about what it could be. But there was nothing that said this is exactly where we are and this is exactly what is going to be.”
Top Republicans in both chambers have reassured they plan to use regular order in their efforts to reform the tax code, meaning the bill will go through the committee process. While the bill has not yet been crafted, GOP staffers close to the process said the release of the outline will help kickstart the process publicly after months of negotiations between House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Economic Adviser Gary Cohn — also referred to as “the big six.”
After fumbling health care reform –with the Senate struggling to reach a consensus on a bill all factions of the conference could support, receiving pushback from members of their own party for the lack of transparency in the process — the GOP is hoping tax reform will be its major policy win ahead of the 2018 election cycle.
“Lessons have been learned, let’s put it that way, in terms of coordinating on the front end — making sure the process is inclusive,” a GOP leadership aide told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Despite holding the majority, Republican lawmakers will still face a series of challenges in their attempt to overhaul the tax code for the first time since 1986. With President Donald Trump’s recent penchant for striking deals with Democratic leadership, some GOP members expressed concern the bipartisan meeting on tax reform held at the White House Tuesday might signal the administration is open to steamrolling some of their more conservative goals.
“So, I think that the goal is to set up whatever these principles are in the six-party discussions and kind of lock everyone down to the basic fundamental infrastructure of what they want to see,” a GOP aide told The Daily Caller News Foundation, adding they wanted to make sure to lock down key areas in the outline so they aren’t later undercut later.
While some have questioned whether the bipartisan tax meeting indicates the White House is putting plan B into place if Republicans fail to pass legislation, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said he’s confident they will pass comprehensive reform, adding it’s important to remember the last time Congress simplified the tax code, there was input from members across the aisle.
“It’s a recognition that President Reagan’s reforms were ultimately bipartisan, not necessarily every step of the way,” he told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a recognition that all communities are suffering and America is falling behind the rest of the world in every city, every county, and every neighborhood. So he encouraged us to work together to find common ground.”
Republicans are aiming to have tax reform completed by the end of the year.
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